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Rewilding Etiquette

Imagine a future where the most revolutionary changes in our world have not come from nanotech, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence or even space development--but from cognitive science and a deepening understanding of how humans function (or not) in groups. What would such a future look like?

We're all familiar--maybe too familiar--with one model of such a future; it's exemplified by stories like Brave New World and 1984. Those books were direct reactions to the last great cycle of research into human nature. That was the era when Freud seemed to have a true model of human nature, Marx a true model of economics (or not) and when eugenics still seemed like a good idea. (If you want to read an excellent horror/slipstream novel about eugenics run amok, try David Nickle's Eutopia, which is available from Chizine Press). These and related theories were used to justify the great 20th century human engineering efforts such as The Great Leap Forward, Soviet collectivization, and so on. The problem wasn't just that ended up being harnessed for evil purposes, but that they were wrong or incomplete. But what would a correct theory of human nature look like, combined with the principles of self-organization and collective intelligence that are emerging right now? What would a cogsci singularity look like?

I think it would look like good manners.

Manners--etiquette--are little studied these days, which is ironic considering that arguably, we need them more than ever. After all, at no other time in history (except maybe during the hegemony of Rome) have so many diverse people being jostling elbows the way they are now. These days, any big city has people from every corner of the world living in it; in my city of Toronto, more than 50% of the inhabitants are from somewhere else. (And it works magnificently; we have 1/10th the murder rate of any comparably-sized American city.) We need to get along with one another, and good manners are an essential tool.

So, what if we didn't shave everybody's head, stamp a number on it and put them through brainwashing classes; or breed them for docility; or drug the water supply. What if, instead, we started a new movement in manners, one directed at conflict resolution, collective problem solving, and the cohabitation of diverse kinds of people? And simply presented it as a movement, like open source software, not run by a social engineering elite but by anybody who's willing to use the publically available code: i.e., the peer-reviewed, experimentally verified, incomplete but emerging cognitive sciences?

I can think of several objections and reactions to this idea. Aside from WTF?!, of course. One is that manners are actually a smoke-screen that an elite use to morally whitewash themselves: I can get away with murdering and pillaging the people around me, as long as I'm polite about it. I think this is very true in certain cases; when one the characters in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age goes on an extended rant justifying hypocrisy among the moneyed classes, he's implicitly admitting to this intretation (and doing a damned fine job). -However, even people in the poorest villages know the difference between good manners and bad. Manners, I suspect, are one of those basic human inventions, like language.

Another objection is that manners are culturally determined. What counts as polite for me may not count as polite for you, or for somebody from the other side of the world. This is a great objection, but you could turn it around by saying, "Okay then, what would the manners of a global, multicultural, crowded civilization look like?" Another question you could ask would be, "Is there a core 'metalanguage' of manners?" Some linguists now think that human language doesn't directly follow some set of meta-rules, but more indirectly converges on certain kinds of attractors; maybe it's a similar case with manners. They converge on behaviours that allow us to get along; but they also get crufted over with local theories about good and bad, cleanliness and contagion, etc. Nonetheless we can to some extent rewild our manners: we can conform them to reality to some degree. For instance, in the novel Nova by Samuel R. Delany, one of the characters offers another character half-chewed food from his own mouth, saying, "this is good, try it." This can be good manners for him because communicable diseases have been wiped out in this future. For us, this action can't be good manners. Similarly, washing one's hands after going to the bathroom is a piece of good manners that's largely supplanted other hygienic etiquette, such as never shaking hands using the left hand.

Rewilded manners are manners that have had localization, historical accident, and obsolete folk theories removed; washing hands is rewilded manners. Eating pork is no longer bad manners (unless you eat it around people for whom it still is). Rewilded manners is saying, "I'm sorry, could you repeat that?" instead of demanding that the person you're talking to speak proper English.

In my novel Lady of Mazes I had a book of simple rules called The Good Book. These were rules on how to behave in different social circumstances, and they had been constructed using massive simulations of millions of social agents. The Good Book is an emergent system for an amicable society. The rules weren't necessarily intuitive, and some ran counter to what one would expect good manners to look like. But they were the result of looking at human behaviour from a higher complexity level than we are able to do as individuals.

To represent (I mean re-present or express) cognitive science as manners would be to rewild it: to return our interactions to as close to a one-to-one relationship of behaviour and reality as possible. Instead of manners around contagion that tell us not to serve meat from animals with cloven hoofs, or only to shake hands with our right hand, we might for instance get forms of greeting based on the most human universals of trust-building (on the primate level, how do eye contact, physical contact, and stance etc. contribute to establishing trust when meeting a stranger? You can study that). To bow seems to be to make oneself vulnerable; it is for us as bearing the throat is for dogs. Is it then a trust-gesture we should encourage, or is it too submissive...?

I am not an expert in the sociology of etiquette and manners, and it may be that my interpretations of what they are and how they work are wrong. Even if I'm on track, this is a task for that 'army of social scientists' I was advocating in an earlier post. As an SF writer, of course, it's not my job to be right; it's my job to provoke the imagination. So, indulge me: imagine the rewilded manners of a near-future Earth, where overlapping etiquette movements combine and compete the way that Gnome and KDE do within the broader Linux community, each seeking a style proper to its vision of human culture, but each adhering to deeper common principles that are derived from a rigorous study of how people actually behave, and what helps them get along, when they do get along.



What you get would look like Japan or Singapore.
Very polite, very law abiding and utterly ruthless when it came to transgressions.


I think the problem you'd run into is that of political disagreement. Manners are (part of) the code that society runs on, and the choices expressed in that code are decidedly not neutral. For instance, look at the recent Anonymous protests in Washington DC. Is it bad manners to wear a mask? Is it bad manners to prevent people from wearing masks? In what contexts? You can't simply assume that everyone shares the same goals, or wants to get along with each other.


The really fun way to do this would be to put a bunch of strong AI monitors in place, with ubiquitous surveillance. Link them to little radio-controlled shock collars, and there you go.

Oh - did I mention the "don't tell people what the rules are ahead of time" part? Or the "some of the rules are counter-intuitive" angle? Oops.


There already exists an international group of people who work to learn how to exist in difficult interpersonal situations. Several, actually! Two are Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous. The problem with their application to your situation is that people usually hAve to hit bottom to be willing to do the work it takes to really digest the principles. But they really do have an 'open source' vibe, valuing everyone's contributions, and empowering people to help themselves and each other.

The thing is that manners aren't enough. People honestly feel under threat from each other, and in that situation, nobody is going to be nice. Not taking things personally is incredibly difficult, and in fact it's antithetical to some cultures' ideas of honor.

I really like your idea of widely teaching rules that help people 'live and let live,' but I think that calling it politeness deeply understates the depth of the issue. I would call it tolerance, integrity, and courage.


I haven't until the end yet but this question begs my comment: "Is there a core 'metalanguage' of manners?"

From my own experience as a French living in Vietnam (among Vietnamese people), if such a metalanguage exists, and I wouldn't bet on it, it is tiny.
It is still baffling to me to see that whatever Vietnamese people I deal with see as politeness I see it as rude (and very likely the opposite is true too.)


Let's deal with one problem: binary reality, always phrased as a choice of it's either this or that. Fill in your favorite choices, your favorite debating BS tactics, whatever. We tend to get stuck, strongly in binary reality. Personally, I blame Christianity for this (good vs. evil). This isn't because I'm anti-Christian, but because Christianity is so woven into the fabric of western society that even rabid atheists fall into binary reality. Heck, some computer programers even get this weird thought that reality is binary, which just goes to show how thoroughly conditioned they are.

No, reality isn't shades of gray, either. Reality has hue, value, chroma, sounds, texture, and all sorts of other dimensions. Classifying this exuberant abundance of data into binary reality causes massive misinterpretation and data loss.

Now, let's talk about violence vs. non-violence. Oops, we're in binary reality already, right? Here's where manners come in. Manners allow people to negotiate that vast, diverse, ambiguous area between violence and non-violence, through a myriad of really clever strategies. You can use manners to make friends, for example, turning an enemy into an ally. Or you can use manners to defuse an argument heading towards violence. And so on, and so on, and so on.

I don't think you necessarily need to design a multicultural set of manners that fits everyone approximately. Rather, you need to think of what the manners are for, and work out ways to get there. There are fundamental tactics, such as sharing food, paying attention, ignoring provocation, and so forth, but the best solution is to create a designer's toolkit for manners, and also create ways to educate people in how to communicate manners effectively. When people think of manners as useful tools, more then flags of group identity, then you've achieved something.

It would also help if everybody spent some time getting out of binary reality. I'm not holding my breath waiting on that one, though.


"Japan or Singapore "... or the U.K. perhaps?

When I was young there was a popular delusion that the U.S.A. was " a Great Big Melting Pot .." That would, in the fullness of Californian time, promote Peace and Love. In reality any smallish island constrained society like our Smallish Island/Archipelago Group with its continual invasions and internal civil warfare spanning over a thousand years topped up being the forge of the 19th century industrial revolution and Democratic government as we presently - one person one vote - has a greater claim to being a melting pot ..with lots of Blood stirred into the pot.

In terms of modern societies ? China is BIG but paranoid about stability so I wouldn't entirely dismiss the UK as Force for social change just yet.

On Science fictional treatments of this kind of social experiment I really like Frank Herberts " The Dosadi Experiment " ..

" Generations ago, a secret, unauthorized experiment by the Gowachins was carried out with the help of a contract with the Calebans. They isolated the planet Dosadi behind an impenetrable barrier called "The God Wall". On the planet were placed humans and Gowachin, with an odd mix of modern and old technology. The planet itself is massively poisonous except for a narrow valley, containing the city "Chu", into which nearly 89 million humans and Gowachin are crowded under terrible conditions. It is ruled by a dictator, many other forms of government having been tried previously, but without the ability to remove such things as the DemoPol, a computer system used to manipulate populaces without their consent or knowledge. Senior Liator Keila Jedrik starts a war that will change Dosadi forever.

Jorj travels to Dosadi and escapes with Keila after engaging in ego sharing. This gives them the ability to swap bodies and thus by using a hole in the contract sealing Dosadi they can escape via jump gate. Once free, by legal manoeuvring the Dosadi population is unleashed upon the ConSentiency for good or ill, whilst the people who set the project in motion try to deal with the consequences, having sent McKie there hoping a solution more in their interest could be found. "

Dunno why the Worlds Community's would wish to unleash the British rather than just leaving us to stew in isolation on our little islands but, well ...serves them right if they get it wrong.


Another complication is the existence of a substantial minority in society who, for one reason or another, find it difficult to conform to the expected behaviour. How do you design such a system to cope with people who are (to pick a couple of tricky examples at random) deaf or autistic? Their ability to participate in many social rituals is impaired. A system which works fine for other people will tend to ostracise groups like this, and they probably won't take kindly to suggestions of wearing a sign.


I'm not a sociologist of manners*, so I don't know the current work, but there is a classic history that might be of interest: Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process Vol. I. The History of Manners (originally published in 1939). Elias traces the history of civilization through the history of manners. It's fascinating, albeit dense.

*I'm a sociologist of economics.


You sound like a social engineer who over-intellectualizes everything. The bottom line is, humans are adapted to life in small tribes, and the further you get from that, the more pathology you get and the more need for social engineering. We *do* stamp, brainwash and breed people for docility, it is just more subtle than in Brave New World. In multicultural societies this is especially critical to prevent people from fighting each other along tribal lines as they did for hundreds of thousands of years. You are better social engineers in Canada, and your multiculturalism is not as pronounced, hence your lower murder rates.


" What would such a future look like? " Like this perhaps? ... " Under Pressure "


You are better social engineers in Canada, and your multiculturalism is not as pronounced, hence your lower murder rates.

We've always had lower murder rates, though, even when we were a rather xenophobic British colony.

I researched this 2-3 years ago, and wasn't able to come to a conclusion more than "the cultures are different". It's not gun control, because even when you could buy a gun at any department store we had a lower murder rate.

What's even odder is if you look at the history of the Yukon Gold Rush you find American prospectors who were violent in Alaska were well-behaved in the Yukon, then went back to being violent in Alaska again. They certainly weren't overpowered by the dozen Mounties on duty!

The closest I can come is that there's something in American culture that sees violence as an acceptable way to settle disagreements. Certainly reading American history seems to show that confrontation and violence seem to be common ways of dealing with disagreements. (That's based a a relative small sampling of history books, though, so I could easily be wrong.)


Yes I agree the cultures are very different. It's very jarring when I visit Canada; people are so docile and friendly it's almost disturbing. I guess it's no mystery why America became a superpower and Canada became our 51st state :)


Dirk, I'm not sure how you get from the idea of a redesign of manners to the idea of ruthless enforcement of same. The one does not follow from the other, any more than the idea of open source software implies some socialist takeover of commercial computer programming. In fact, one reason I find this idea interesting is that I can't see any easy ways to impose it on the world at large (small communities, maybe--everybody everywhere? Nah...).

Sith Master Sean, I'm glad you know what the bottom line of human nature is and can enlighten the rest of us, and also that you know for a fact that human society has always been violent. Although... you might try reading some research on the subject, for instance the book Beyond War: The Human Potential for Peace, by Douglas P. Fry. There are some surprising things to be learned there--such as the fact that somewhere between 35% and 50% of human societies have never practiced war.

Robert, I suspect you're right. We Canadians tend to crow about our moral superiority, but the basis for it seems murky and disappears under close examination.


We Canadians tend to crow about our moral superiority, but the basis for it seems murky and disappears under close examination

Conveniently forgetting the Chinese Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Act, our treatment of Japanese during WWII (and taking two generations to acknowledge it), the deplorable state of our First Nations reserves, the support we gave Indonesia during the East Timor invasion and occupation, our degrading environmental record…

I claim no moral superiority — but I do think this is a safer place to live.


Personally, I think Canadians just lucked out. Probably investigating that luck too hard would be counterproductive.

Just keep sending your malcontents to Hollywood, and everything will be fine.


Sean: this is your yellow flag.

Stop posturing on this topic and stop grinding your bushel of axes, or I'm going to ban you and start deleting your comments.

Hint: anti-Canadian trolling will get you banned. So will referring to any ethnic, cultural, or national group as "sheep" or insulting social engineers.


A good example of binary debate is that over abortion. One side insists that human life begins at the moment of egg fertilization, which is a bizarre claim for religious people, as it would make God the most murderous abortionist ever. The other side insists that human life begins at the moment of parturition, which is scientifically ludicrous—a Caesarian would have to magically accelerate development of some crucial human faculty.

The straightforward solution is to think of development as continuous and subtle, which it is, and hence to make abortion routine early in pregnancy, a matter for careful consideration mid-term, and illegal late in pregnancy. That, though, would call for nuance, judgement, compromise and trust in the goodwill of professionals—and binary thinkers always want to turn off everyone else’s judgement in future, in favour of their own judgement right now, once and for all.


Is there any data that supports the idea of

GettingAlong = function(etiquette) ?

Having said that, I do think that there has been an awful decline in manners, especially those that concern other peoples' comfort. (E.g. keeping places quiet - libraries, bookstores, restaurants).

Brits are famous for their queuing etiquette and how transgressions are handled (poorly), and we know that forming orderly lines is more efficient.

Can this be applied to many more situations? I certainly think that if there were more established rules about what constitutes a transgression, it may well be easier to back out of an escalating violent situation. But to work, the majority must adhere to those rules, and this, I fear, gets you back to your "wicked problems". Somehow the rules must reward good behavior and punish bad to ensure general compliance. How might that be done?


It's further complicated by the concept of "rights over control of your own body". That right has ensured that later term abortions remain legal, as that right trumps that of the fetus. Both the religious and secular factions are trapped in what they see as very binary "lines in the sand".

It may not help that the legal system is a morass of very complex rules to ensure that every situation has a clearly defined legal/illegal line.


Seems like manners evolve to ensure smooth coexistence and build trust.

What are some best practices for coexistence? Don't offend people, help others when they need it, be self-sufficient yourself. Most of these seem to require caring about and understanding other people.

So education, experiences, technologies, or drugs that increase empathy and understanding would also likely improve manners.

As social norms, they are also determined by what we observe. So influencing the media (by, say, writing books? Or blog posts?) seems like a valid approach.


It's OK Charlie, I'm tired of having my thoughts policed by a cretin like you. Fuck off and die, you swine.


Sean, thank you for providing the excellent example of bad etiquette that this discussion thread so badly needed.

You're banned. Globally, on all threads. Don't let the doorknob hit you on the ass.


A lot of people don't realize that many embryos die before women know they're pregnant and then don't know the embryo has passed. They only count those that are known.

I think you must allow some late-term abortions -- those where the mother is likely to die or where it turns out the baby will be anencephalic, etc.


This kind of reminds me of all those old (and not so old) stories which had as part of their naive background a single "universal" language. Even for interstellar empires lasting for tens of thousands of years and across tens or hundreds of millions of worlds.

How about this instead: Something I'll call "Interpol" - short for interpolity - which is not only a common second language, but a common set of second manners. If you wear the bright red sash that designates you as Interpol, then people won't expect you to know the local custom. They will, however, expect you to follow Interpol, which they are thoroughly familiar with.

Being designed and having standards and best practices (like coding or IEEE standards), Interpol also has the advantage of having relatively little unplanned drift. So if you're away for a while (say forty or four hundred years on an interstellar cycler :-), you're still going to know which fork to use in polite society, how to greet an unmarried woman who is not a relative within two degrees of consanguinity, etc.

Hmmm . . . I'm not sure, but this kind of reminds me of Anderson's Kith stories.


Many places in the US are teaching kids how to handle conflict resolution and then it continues up the line. It's usually done in schools, which deals with most kids.


Dan, thanks for the reference in #9. I will definitely look it up.


"...hence to make abortion routine early in pregnancy, a matter for careful consideration mid-term, and illegal late in pregnancy. That, though, would call for nuance, judgement, compromise and trust in the goodwill of professionals..."

Back in the UK in the early 80's, I had a GP tell me how he had deliberately stalled tests on a pregnant girl beyond the legal termination period, so that she was forced to have the baby. Occasionally that assumption of goodwill and professionalism is misplaced.


"A lot of people don't realize that many embryos die before women know they're pregnant and then don't know the embryo has passed."

With some states trying to prosecute these natural abortions as murder, you can almost expect some women not to have pregnancy tests just in case an overzealous prosecutor needs another notch in his religious credentials.


I have several obFH quotes I roll out when appropriate, one or two from the Dosadi experiment.
Annoyingly, the book should have been maybe 50 pages longer, and he never explained the Demopol properly. I got the impression it was a sort of polling system which could be rigged by setting the right questions, combined with some sort of control over the media so that only the preferred points of view get discussed at all. (Like what we have the in the USA and UK and other countries)

The opening sentence reminds me that for all the progress in physical sciences, the early hope for social sciences has not borne similar fruit.

But potential raises issues like is it ok to brainwash people to get them to stop doing socially unacceptable things? I'm sure most people would be happy to see burglars brainwashed into not burgling again, but they might object when it gets applied to them for protesting outside a corporation HQ or in Parliament square...

On the other hand, I suspect there would be some interesting stories in the transition to a more mannerly society, so get writing.


Let me correct that. Not natural abortions, but miscarriages.


Manners get entangled with other areas of human behavior, often in strange and unobvious ways. For instance, body language and the use of personal space: some kinds of discourse or interaction are acceptable at one distance between the conversants, and some are only acceptable at another distance. Gestures may be acceptable when used in some groups, but not in others, depending on the makeup of the group. This makes for a fairly large matrix of combinations of gestures, spaces, behaviors, modes of address, and kinds of forks to use in particular orders, even when only talking about two people from different subcultures of the same overculture. So anything that we come up with as a set of common manners is necessarily going to seem artificial in at least some ways to pretty much every user. Which isn't such a bad thing, because if the manners are too much of a close fit to those routinely used by any one group, issues of privilege are bound to arise and get in the way of good manners.


Okay, guys, enough of the abortion discussion. It's off-topic and inherently hot- button.



In case you didn't get Karl's drift, any further comments on the subject of abortion will be deleted, and the commenters banned. (Reason: derailing a discussion. Which is a form of trolling, however well-intentioned it may be.)



Quentin Crisp wrote a pretty amazing book on manners called _Manners From Heaven_. Not a scientific study, but something of an attempt to do something along the lines of what you are suggesting: distilling down the essentials of how to have good manners anywhere.

I really like the thought experiment of this post; I think it is going to have repercussions on the plot of a book I've been slowly getting out of my head and on to the page. Your books are quickly moving to the front of the line in my reading list after following what you've written here.


..enough of the abortion discussion...

There is a certain irony in a discussion of using etiquette to smooth the social condition, that the [relatively] authoritarian approach is used. :)

This coming just after Charlie banned a quite rude commentator, I have to wonder just how likely etiquette and other social engineering approaches are going to work compared to the more reflexive, but simpler, control by authority? Or is this to be interpreted as [one of] the sanctions needed to enforce manners?


It's interesting that Canadians are generally both more polite and less violent than Americans. My experience in America is that there's actually *less* petty rudeness in dangerous high crime neighborhoods than in the nice safe suburbs. You don't mouth off to a stranger if it might get you shot instead of just earning a dirty look. Maybe Canadian society produces more empathetic people so causing others to be upset causes more emotional pain to the person being rude. Perhaps the only way to create a universally polite society would be to somehow give everyone perfect empathy (psi or some kind of tech equivalent) - cause pain, discomfort, humiliation for someone else and you cause an equal amount for yourself.


"Dirk, I'm not sure how you get from the idea of a redesign of manners to the idea of ruthless enforcement of same. The one does not follow from the other..."

I think it does to some extent.
Good manners persist only if bad manners are punished. Societies that are very "good manners" oriented seem to bear out this hypothesis. I think we have just seen (in this thread) what happens to those with persistent bad manners.


Alex, I'm away from home right now, trying to hammer out a speech for USENIX Security the day after tomorrow, and my sense of humour is frayed. More to the point, if you read the moderation policy you'll see some simple etiquette guidelines laid out. Specifically, this is a private venue which I am paying for out of my own pocket.

I reserve the right to run trolls off my private property just as you might reserve the right to eject an unruly guest at a house party who decided to piss on your rug and insult your friends.

My take on the matter is that "Sith Master Sean" feels dis-inhibited by the general lack of good manners on the internet at large and empowered by his own assumed anonymity, and is acting out his own personal issues in public without any heed for the broader social commonweal. Which is to his own ultimate cost insofar as there's usually more to be learned from polite discourse than from trolling, and he's also assuming that his anonymity will stand the test of time and not boomerang back on him at some inopportune future moment.

I am under no obligation to subsidize his freedom of speech, especially when he chooses to use it for ends that I find repugnant or annoying.

(Note, however, that I have neither the ability nor the inclination to ban the troublemakers from their own blogs. If I actually had the ability to censor the whole freaking internet, I'd feel obliged to tread very lightly indeed.)


One useful starting place is human nature. I'm thinking of an old book (Manwatching by Desmond Morris), where he treats human interactions much as a naturalist would treat bird watching, by categorizing behaviors that are unique to cultures and areas (gestures, ideas about modesty, personal distance), and things that seem universal (where you can and cannot touch another person, most locomotion modes, facial gestures like smiles, tears, and so forth).

While humans are highly diverse and complex, there are universals (like a smile of pleasure, or crying) and near universals (it's typically okay to touch a hand, generally okay to touch a should, and never okay to touch a breast unless you are intimate).

There are also common patterns. While earlier I hammered on the binary reality imposed by Christianity, ironically, Christianity is so pervasive that it provides a common set of reference points for people who would otherwise have little in common. That's not entirely a bad thing.

These are all building blocks for manners.

you find American prospectors who were violent in Alaska were well-behaved in the Yukon, then went back to being violent in Alaska again. They certainly weren't overpowered by the dozen Mounties on duty!

Reminded me of this clip starring Don S. Davis being confounded by his inability to just shoot the damn mountie.


No, Dirk, threat of punishment is well known to be less effective at controlling behaviour than promise of reward. Good manners need not be enforced at all if they have a beneficial outcome to those who use them.


I'm not in any way questioning your right to do as you have clearly stipulated. As you say, the rules are clear and represent the etiquette required to maintain a ruly blog.

In the discussion that Karl is trying to put forward, in this thread and previously, there is a clear theme that ruly interactions can be achieved without obvious resort to authority or fixed rules ("what comes after bureaucratic government"), but upon agreed rules to cooperate by the players. I think a number of people have argued that this agreement to the rules on social engagement is problematic - in Karls' terminology, a wicked problem. Trolling is a case where the rules are disregarded. That trolling on blogs is so common suggests, to me at least, that it is going to be very difficult to get players to agree to rules in any number of social situations. Thus the need to impose sanctions, by authority. As someone pointed out, this is very much Alexander cutting the Gordian Knot.

My point is that a new etiquette has to tap into meaningful rewards and punishments for it to work.
You graciously offer non-binary sanctions (punishment) by the use of "warning", "yellow card", "red card", "banned from thread", "total ban". These provide the guides to moderate posting behavior. I think they are very much in the spirit of what Karl is talking about, albeit in a very limited context.


threat of punishment is well known to be less effective at controlling behaviour than promise of reward

I think that depends on context.

If you recall, older (mid 1980's) business management theory went from Theory X (punishment), to Theory Y (rewards) to Theory Z (reward & punishment). Whether effective or not, when authors write books like "The Management Lessons of Genghis Khan", there is a sense that threats are a de rigeur MO for some managers. And let's not forget the underlying message of Machiavelli's "The Prince". I also think that the Catholic Church maintained its power by punishment (excommunication) more than reward.


Punishments never taught me to toe the line - they taught me to hate the punisher, simulate compliance, avoid detection and withstand interrogation with multiple fall-back cover stories. Although I'm sure that it wasn't their intention, some of the people responsible for my early development were effectively training me for a career as an agent in place or criminal. Fortunately, some of my early socialisation was in the form of rewards, so I'm not a complete sociopath.


I think you will find that the one thing better than reward is reward coupled with punishment.


I suspect one thing which formulates the creation of good manners is a shared necessity to get along. For my examples here, I'll be using the British, Dutch, Canadian, Australian, and United States versions of contemporary Western culture. Now, in most of these cases, for the majority of the time there's enough food, water, shelter, security etc (all the basic stuff) for everyone to be able to deal with their basic needs.

However, in some areas, there are ongoing stressors which necessitate co-operation to work around. In some cases (Dutch, Canadian, Australian) these are environmental - in the Dutch case, it's that the entire country is approximately four good leaks and a pump failure away from sinking into the North Sea; in the Canadian and Australian cases, it's that the weather is not so much neutral as varying between mild and active malevolence by season (in Canada the season to watch for is winter; in Australia, it's summer). So there's further encouragement to co-operate with one's fellow human beings, and more pressure to tolerate people's individual quirks, as well as to suppress or moderate ones own quirks in order to aid in this co-operation.

In other areas (for example, in the cases of the Dutch, and the British) the stressor is population-based. When there are a lot of other people around, tolerance is required as a social skill. Thus the growth of and demonstration of tolerance, and forbearance for the quirks of ones fellow mortals (as well as the skills of muting and moderating ones own quirks in the name of tolerance) are socially rewarded, leading to a society where getting along with others without violent reaction is rewarded.

The USA, by contrast, mostly has fairly amicable weather, fairly well-spaced population distribution, and a fairly widespread and good distribution of usable resources. Thus there isn't the same social necessity for things like co-operation, collaboration, or moderation. Instead, there's a greater emphasis on individuality over all other factors, and a massive emphasis on personal liberty and personal autonomy. This results in a culture which (to my British-ancestry Australian eyes at least) comes across as shockingly and insultingly bad-mannered on occasion - not so much in the individual behaviours, but more in the overall attitudes. (As an example: I'm a fat woman, but while Australia has a degree of institutional fat-phobia, I don't get the same degree of street harassment that women in the US appear to accept as "normal" about the whole business. But then, I've grown up in a (largely UK-centric) family culture which emphasised moderation over individuality, and as part of a larger culture which has a strong emphasis on working together to overcome adversity, and in both of these cultures, passing hurtful remarks isn't regarded as a productive means of obtaining co-operation or calm. So it's likely I see street harassment as being far more "rude" than someone from the US would).


Is a transgression not detected, a transgression? How does one "simulate compliance", without complying?

As a self proclaimed "[not a complete] sociopath", how do you regard the rules of etiquette?


There is also a substantial body of evidence in psychology that members of a group will punish "cheaters" even if it results in a disadvantage to themselves. Bad manners is viewed by many as a variant of "cheating".

If you display bad manners in a manners oriented society you just don't get invited to the party. See where being bad mannered gets you when applying for a job in such a society. Or not even knowing the correct etiquette. I have seen people rejected for a job because they did not have clean fingernails, and it was not for some customer service drone where hygiene or PR might matter


everyone perfect empathy (psi or some kind of tech equivalent) - cause pain, discomfort, humiliation for someone else and you cause an equal amount for yourself.

If it turns out the mirror neurons really are the basis for "putting yourself in the place of others", then enhancing the output of those signals with drugs, or other techniques, might work.


BTW, there seems to be some impression that Britain is a relatively peaceful non-violent place. This is not true now and has never been. England at least has always been one of the most violent nations in Europe at the individual level.


How are good manners instilled - by a mix of of reward and punishment. Conditioning. If punishment is overused, do we get the "sociopathic" behavior described by Phil K?



Compliance=working as hard as possible in every subject at school. Simulating same=breaking into school offices to alter personal files.

Compliance=spend free time in "healthy outdoor activites", cycling round countryside. Simulating same = going round a mate's house to watch tv and eat biscuits.

Culminating in

Compliance=get into reasonable university to study science. Simulating same = spend grant money on electric guitar, start a band, never ever attend lectures.

If etiquette means politeness, rather than an arbitrary game of ill-defined rules defined to identify and exclude outsiders, then I'm all for it and do my best to practice it myself. Don't scare the horses, be nice to cats etc.


Personally, I think this blog works like an Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, in which the cooperators end up dominating the posting, whatever the original post was. That is, unless their topic pisses off Charlie enough.

That's not a bad thing.


I think online politeness is a useful parallel for the real world, at least the urban part of it. Anonymity, mobility and ease of access are relatively similar in both, with the online world having enough more of all that it's a good testbed. And it works by walls - excluding people who don't follow the rules.

How that will work when public anonymity falls away is anyone's guess. What I'm find at the moment is that even relatively crappy face recognition works well enough - cutting the possible matches down from millions to under a hundred is enough that I can usually pick the owner of the face out of the resulting pool. And quickly - we are optimised for that. Will people be more polite if it's easy enough to follow them home and ask for an apology?


How on earth were humans adapted to live in small tribes suddenly able to sit down and read silently for hours on end, or play piano? Human nature is evidently quite plastic.

Further shotgun comments:

I am reminded of a scene in Bruce Sterling's "Distraction", a market where everyone was given an earpiece which would start to cry like a baby if you stopped and obstructed traffic. Just constant little hints to make things flow nicely, no need for electric shock collars.

Karl Schroeder @42: Rewarding and punishing behaviour is a failure mode... a fallback when the primary mechanism fails, said primary mechanism being the immersive cultural context. There are simply some ways one is expected to act, and some ways one does not. There are ways of living defined as a life well lived, and others looked on with pity. We tell stories in various media. We put biographies of "good" and "bad" people in magazines. There's a whole lot of interpersonal stuff based on intimacy requiring shared beliefs. In the end, it comes down to just repeating often enough "this is how a person behaves".


Will people be more polite if it's easy enough to follow them home and ask for an apology?

Depends on how big you are, I suspect. Not to mention whether they think they've been impolite.


The closest I can come is that there's something in American culture that sees violence as an acceptable way to settle disagreements."

Why do you make the assumption that this is incorrect? Certainly picking it as the _only_ way to settle disagreements would be...odd...but one could readily picture cases where settling a disagreement quickly is better than allowing further discussion, even if the only way to end debate is violence.
It's probably a subset of the situations where dictatorship might produce better outcomes than democracy.


This has the potential to be an absolutely fascinating discussion.

But let's get back to the cognitive science element of this - how can the manners be taught to people effectively? How can they be studied at the same level as say linguistics to decode the elements universally?

I know I don't have the answers, but I think the questions are worth posing.


What if manners are simply a form of expectation? If someone behaves in a manner consistent with your expectations, they are being "polite". If different, "impolite".

Which means it's either total conformity (hello, Singapore, Japan, etc), total indifference to variety of behavior (which is probably insane), or continual conflict of manners.
The presence of introverts and extroverts will make this interesting...


Maybe we need to design a system of manners that works more like a negotiating communication protocol than a set of strict rules. The essence of such a protocol is the initial setup, in which the communicating entities inform each other how they expect to communicate (bit rate, encoding, error detection schemes, backoff algorithms, acknowledgement schemes, etc.). In adaptive protocols, a change in the communication channel might cause a renegotiation to determine how to cope with the change.

So maybe two people meeting for the first time need to exchange some basic information on what they perceive as good manners: "I expect at least half a meter of personal space in a public environment, and don't consider touching appropriate on first meeting." "I, on the other hand, expect to bow slightly, shake hands, and exchange business cards on first introduction." "Acknowledge your initial requirements and offer to bow and exchange cards, reserving the handshake for future meetings." Accepted; delighted to meet you."

The combinatorial explosion of body language, personal space, gesture, expression, and other parts of just the manners of greeting makes me think that negotiation would be rather cumbersome unless there's some previous agreement on a small number of possibilities for the first meeting, after which more negotiation becomes reasonable.


This discussion is the best I've seen in a long time!

I want to reinforce Marilyn @26 points out: Schools are teaching peace strategies.

Constructive engagement in conflict is not only possible, it is a teachable skill.

I love the Frank Herbert stories because they examine a future of people who learn all manner of weird impossible disciplines. Our assumptions of universal human nature seem to shift over time.

Wild stuff ripe for speculative fiction, but very hard to pull off: the reader must be led to identify with an alien culture. But of course readers of this weblog are accustomed to six alien lifestyles before breakfast.

(also I get the impression that China has already forgotten more about peaceful hegemony than we have yet demonstrated in modern times. Though perhaps we are living in a comparable period now. I am profoundly unqualified to raise these points.)


"Manners, I suspect, are one of those basic human inventions, like language."
Cats have it. The behaviour of two or more of them, both to each other (and I'm emphatically NOT talking about "pecking order" here) and to their human servants is quite different, and variable,according to circumstances.
I suspect "manners" are much deeper than that.
They may not even be only mammalian, since some of the more intelligent birds (corvids, psittacines) show this behaviour as well.

Charlie @ 17
Oh dear, I was looking forward to sneering at social engineers - assuming, of course, that they are the same as "sociologists".
OTOH, people like Geordie Stephenson (see my quote in an earlier thread) can also be regarded as social engineers, as can (Sir) Tim Berners-Leee, or James Maxwell.
I think this is getting complicated ....

[ OOPS - noted Charlie @ 34 on the way down
@29 Eeewwugh! ]

Oh yes, the well-known smooth social interactions in Britain ... erm
Are you sure about that?


That's almost binary, isn't it.

But where do you put the dividing line between punishment and reward? How would different people see the same response? It might be a bit of a cliché, but consider how an experienced Sergeant might say, "Of course, sir," to a raw Subaltern with a new idea.

It's like the way you can use a very formally polite phrasing to express something not-so-polite.

The problem is the people who don't get embarrassed.


Your right on Japan and So,so wrong on Singapore.


Having moved to Britain from NZ a few years back, I find it fascinating viewing a lot of the cultural assumptions from the outside as it were.

London for example, is full of people living on top of each other, so an elaborate unwritten social code has evolved that shrouds everyone in their own (tiny) personal space. Noone speaks to anyone else unless they really have to, the ever present panhandlers mean you get used to simply ignoring anyone who speaks at you. People change from getting uncomfortable when someone is within a yard of them, to jostling in a tube with your head in someones armpit, retreating into a shell of silence and never making eye contact.
I really knew I'd become acclimmated to the city when I went from "oh my god someone just fell under a train" to "Selfish bastards, could they not have done it outside rush hour?"

Which is quite a terrifying philosophical change, coming from a country where you'd know all your neighbors, and generally people up and down the street, where talking to strangers on buses or trains is *normal*, and where stopping to assist people is just what you do. I was here for two years before I even met my neighbor in my first flat.

I wonder if a lot of it comes from the fact that people have difficulty conceptually in dealing with large numbers of others. In other words, since it is difficult to have a meaningful relationship with more than a certain number of people, probably going back to our tribal roots, people respond by forcibly limiting their interactions to avoid overflowing their internal buffers of friends/colleagues/acquaintences.

I also agree that Britain is a violent country at heart - Italians and Spaniards for example tend to flare up on a regular basis but it seems more cathartic, they don't tend to be violent, just exuberantly angry and then gone.
Here people tend to sit on their anger, so it simmers behind their eyes, and when it boils over, boy, does it ever.


I don't know what you'd mean by "a few years back", but certainly 15 years ago London was like that, and Glasgow wasn't. I recruited several new members for a model-making club just by being in a model shop when they asked the staff if there were any model-making clubs in the area.

The last time I was in London, on Monday I actively surprised the kids who's job was handing out the evening free sheets to commuters when I said "Thank You" to them.


As I infer in #67 para 2, a reward can be as cheap and simple as as just saying "Thank you" to someone.


"I reserve the right to run trolls off my private property just as you might reserve the right to eject an unruly guest at a house party who decided to piss on your rug and insult your friends."

See, I was just cross at him because he apparently took it upon himself to demote us to being merely the 52nd state...


I accept that the UK is probably more violent than most European countries, but even within it, as long as you aren't a 16-15 year old male hanging around the city centre at chucking out time, or live on an estate and are involved in gangs, you really don't see much violence at all.
The point is that the violence is segregated by class, geography etc, so half the population isn't exposed.


Surely 53rd State? Puerto Rico is normally considered the 51st State (and acually uses the US$ as currency), and supplies the Peurto Rico Air National Guard (PRANG) to the USAF OrBat.


Good grief. The Peurto Rico Air National Guard is one of those organizations English-language journalists the world over are crying out to have an incident they can write a story about, just so that they can use the puns, isn't it?


Where you really see the rougher side is out on the town, especially on any Night Bus just after closing as the drunks go home, or following a major football game, as the sides head home. I really think a lot of it is internalised anger at perceived injustices, and alcohol lowers the inhibitions enough to trigger a boil over. Being an adult male, I've seldom felt scared wandering around the city, but I know many of my female friends have, even in 'safe' areas.

Certainly I've found the british tend to more loutish behaviour overseas when drunk, regardless of class, while most of their european neighbors tend to be more exuberant - they're having fun and want you to share in it. It probably comes down to cultural perceptions of what makes for a "good time".

Cultural perceptions can be hilarous in hindsight - I remember having a South African flatmate, who was sounding incredibly angry in Afrikaans down the phone at someone, very out of character for him. We all looked at him in shock when he explained in a puzzled tone that he had merely wished his grandmother a happy birthday, and why were we staring at him like that? Afrikaans with all its gutterals and harsh tones is not the most poetic of languages :)


"Afrikaans is one of the world's best languages in which to curse; even when spoken politely, it can bruise innocent bystanders." --Arthur C. Clarke, '2061,' and entirely true. (",)


Where you really see the rougher side is out on the town, especially on any Night Bus just after closing as the drunks go home, or following a major football game, as the sides head home. I really think a lot of it is internalised anger at perceived injustices, and alcohol lowers the inhibitions enough to trigger a boil over

Indeed. Our gracious host has previously commented in another forum about just such a journey


Apologies if I missed this, but I think a politeness system would have to be resistant to being hacked or gamed.

A person honestly trying to avoid offense can really be put through the hoops by someone professing to be offended no matter how polite the first person is, or by acting injured far our of proportion to any actual injury.

People, companies, countries caught making mischief declare making note of it to be shockingly impolite.

Hilariously, Tommy Davis, the spokesdroid for Scientology, has taken great offense at John Sweeney asking about certain SCN practices.

Some in the US right, not normally known for civil discourse, suddenly discovered their sensitive side, claiming their beliefs were threatened gay marriage, or bleeding on behalf of companies and rich individuals not getting enough love from the peasantry. (On this last item, a serious--to Washington pundits--contention is that companies are keeping their money offshore and not hiring because they're uncertain whether Obama likes them enough.)


Arguably, 'manners' is just the name given to any system of social customs that is effective at keeping people from killing each other most of the time without government/military/police intervention. I.e., manners keep the peace without enforcers, and any mechanism that does so falls under the domain of manners. (This is like how any system by which communication of complex ideas occurs is language in the abstract, and while languages tend towards particular properties for utilitarian reasons, constructed languages with properties that make them too awkward to become widespread, like rigorous mathematical notation, or the stack-like OSV form of Fith, or the difficult phonemics and multi-page conjugation tables of Ithkuil, do not disqualify these things from the category of language)


Well yes, but if you can't take a joke...


See also the well documented difference in behaviour between the Tartan army and English football fans when abroad at the world cup etc.


What you're all talking about here is essentially the DNA of culture. Coded interactions, spreading or communicating them, reward, punishment.

create a designer's toolkit for manners, and also create ways to educate people in how to communicate manners effectively.

That's essentially a test-tube kit for new cultures.

manners as useful tools, more then flags of group identity

What is group identity? I think, it necessarily arises from an efficient reward and punishment structure in a generally hostile environment.

If you're working together as a group because of a material need to so (e.g. defence against "barbarian" incursions), then people more commited or valuable to the common cause will necessarily have a higher social standing. And free-ridership will not be permitted. Only reliable members of the group will be reliably defended against outside threats. Group identity comes down to a contract, a defense pact on a deeper than conscious level. Hard to break, because to work at all, it needs to be hard to break.

Of course, the world has changed. The dangerous outside threat is us. There's the occasional genocidal fanatic, but without nuclear weapons they do not register as a real threat to either the US, Europe or China.

What we're looking at, therefore is a new generation of cultures, adapted to a small and fragile planet.

One important lesson of recent history is: a single, unified culture will not work. That leaves us with a nested hierarchy.

And with this in mind, manners become subject to concentric social circles. Intimacy is linked to the closest circle around us, beyond that there is respect and then further out politeness.

Likewise enforcement depends on context. Intimate friends will feel strongly about small hints, temporary withdrawal of social rewards. Beyond that there are nested social spheres, where you can earn or lose the respect of certain groups. That is, enforcement is context-dependent.

As long as you're aware of the general framework, creating a new subculture is a free-for-all. Teenagers of countless generations have done it. But once your smart enough about it, you can make it a permanent feature.

In such a fluid, everchanging society attractors will become more important than history/genesis and social boundaries will blur, without fully disappearing.

And the competition for survival will not be between fully formed cultures any more (and it won't be determined militarily), but between fractional elements of these.


Arguably, 'manners' is just the name given to any system of social customs that is effective at keeping people from killing each other most of the time without government/military/police intervention.

It is also a way to demonstrate class/group identity and to detect "outsiders".


Following on from ideas of manners as cultural DNA (memes?), I think we see the elaboration of etiquette rules as a sort of arms race that allows groups to self identify. Like sexually selected male peacock tail feathers, there is a cost in learning the rules.

I wonder if game theory could help in understanding the development of etiquette?


I suspect quite a lot of that (though perhaps not all) is down to expectations. In football terms, Scotland is a small nation, and any half-decent result is grounds for celebration.

England, on the other hand, thinks it is a major football nation. That may be true of the Premier League, where the big money allows buying in of players from around the world, but the national team is not a first rank one, and never has been. It has only ever won the World Cup once — that was with home advantage (a surprisingly strong factor when it comes to World Cups) — and it has reached the semi finals on only one other occasion.

Effectively, every four years, the English press lies to the English fan base about the team's chances, and when the team is inevitably beaten, the fans get unhappy.

(Yeah, Fleet Street is a pretty sorry mess.)


Yes, birds have manners.

One of major entertainments right now are the two hummingbird feeders (vials of 20% sugar water, with the opening pointing up so bees can't get to the food) I've got on opposite sides of our home. The one in back gets the most interesting behavior. It's at beside a large tomato plant, and the young hummingbirds use it.

Manners? Yes. Last night, I watched two female Anna's hummingbirds approach the back feeder simultaneously. They hovered on opposite sides of the feeder, looking at each other. They tried both feeding simultaneously while hovering. Their beaks barely fit into the opening that way. That was apparently uncomfortable, so they started taking turns, each one taking a sip, back and forth, dart in, dart back. They were clumsy at it, and I've only once before seen hummers share a feeder.

Now, it's possible they were sisters, and I've noticed the young birds are more trusting than the older birds are. Still, they spontaneously figured out how to share the flower without fighting. I'd say that it doesn't take a large brain to have basic manners.


Is that manners, or just learning what works best to feed? How would you describe the difference?


At some point someone is going to claim that ritualized mating dances are "manners". Wait for it... ;)


That's probably true of the national sides; I'd be less certain of the behaviour of Scottish fans when supporting their clubs in Europe.


They appear to be "sharing", rather than Bird1 attempting to hog the feeder until it's full, before allowing Bird2 access.

I'm not saying that this is "manners" as such, but it certinly seems to be more advanced behaviour than "faster/heavier animal gets served first".


Actually on this note, my new flat has a squirrel feeder in the communal garden - basically a tube with a ledge and a weight on the lid, full of nuts.

Yesterday I saw one grey squirrel lifting the lid with a paw while another went in to fill its mouth with nuts, then they swapped, with the second holding the lid, then both ran off up the nearby tree to sit and eat. First time I've ever seen squirrels not actually fighting over food, they certainly don't like the pigeons getting too close and seem very possessive.


Addendum - I've seen this sort of "taking turns" behaviour more often in seed-eating species that don't flock than in insect and flesh-eating species, and flocking insectivores seem particularly combative here.


Absolutely, Paws.

The two birds really appeared to be negotiating their solution on the spot, trying to work how they could both feed. More often, I've seen one bird feed until another bird can't stand it any more, and drives the first bird away. This type of sharing is unusual.

When a hummingbird goes head down on a feeder, it's vulnerable, and I've seen another hummer peck the back of the feeder's head to drive it off. There's also a picture of two male hummers dead, impaled on each others' bills from a mid-air collision, so there's a real hazard for the birds here.

Getting back to manners, the basic point is that it doesn't take a lot of brains to work out rudimentary manners. Hummingbirds aren't known for their social sophistication.


The reason for "binary reality" is far older than Christianity. It's basically to avoid complexity.

The world is too complex to deal with without abstracting. So you talk about "violence vs. non-violence" not because of Christianity, but because it makes it easier to think about. Yes, it also makes it less accurate, so when you stop to think carefully about it you tease it apart along several different dimensions, exactly which depends on the purpose behind your thoughts. Consider, e.g., "formalized vs. non-formalized". Boxers can indulge in large amounts of formalized violence, and most people won't consider that they are doing wrong...even most pacifists, who wouldn't dream of doing that themselves.

N.B.: This is a comment about "binary reality", not about whether or not violence is wrong.


It is, however, a legitimate consideration that good manners may require strong enforcement. So if you desire good manners to prevail in some arena, that arena must have a strong enforcement policy that penalized the display of bad manners.

Just consider, e.g., the differences between this discussion forum and Slashdot, which has a much milder disciplinary form. And usenet or email, which have essentially none. Usenet appears to have essentially died, except for a few moderated areas, or a few private fora that are only of interest to a small minority (and those tend to be heavily, if unobtrusively, censored against trolls).


"One important lesson of recent history is: a single, unified culture will not work."

Recent history shows exactly the opposite.


With great respect Charles, I have to disagree.

The abstraction of binary reality appears, from both the archeological and anthropological record, to be emergent, rather than basic.

Yes, you can find it in Christianity (less in Judaism, I think), in the Yin-Yang symbol of Taoism, and potentially in the dualities of the Andean cultures. But Hinduism and Buddhism? Those are complex and multipolar. Most religions and philosophical traditions are.

Additionally, the further back you go, the less you see that type of black/white, highly divided iconography. Check out cave paintings, for one thing. The oldest ones in Europe are highly realistic, and although much rock art is abstract, they don't abstract to binary reality at all. I can add a *large number* of other examples ranging up to the present, but this is a blog, not a monograph.

While the meme concept is over-rated, I'd say that binary reality is a meme. In our culture, the this meme is used as a basic explanatory and teaching device, and it is so embedded in the way we learn to think that we have to consciously realize that it prevents us from seeing the full richness of reality. Based on my personal experience, I'd say it's an abstraction that's worth experimenting with and potentially abandoning, at least on a personal level.


Depends on who is doing the counting...By the current U.S. President's take, Canada would be the 58th state.
(Hey, just chalk it up to me being tired.)

Also see #77...


Reward is important, but not, in itself, sufficient. Some people get too much reward from being able to impose their desires on someone else. So punishment is also needed.

Note that saying reward and punishment are needed is not the same as saying they need to be strong...depending on how much violation one is willing to tolerate.

Consider the relative tone of different internet discussion fora. Slashdot has a moderation system. If you are too obnoxious, your posts will tend to have a low score, so people will be able to choose to not see them. This is fairly effective over time, but it is "over time", and there's a requirement that newly joined posters start out with a fairly low "reputation".


What, not a single mention of Emily Post in a conversation dealing with etiquette? How do I express my complete consternation in such a manner as to not get me ejected from the house of Stross?


Similar might be said of the U.S.

Case in point: I live in the Detroit Metro area. The suburb I live in has an eastern border

Homicides have numbered at less-than-3-per-year in this particular suburb for at least a decade.

One complicating factor in this discussion: Detroit, with its infamous homicide-and-violence rate, covers 143 square miles. It is one the geographically-largest cities in the entire United States. Criminal behavior is known to vary widely between 'livable' and 'bad' neighborhoods in Detroit.

Another factor: There is a noticeable difference in interpersonal behavior between Suburb and City, even when comparing neighborhoods that are across the road from each other. Thus, there is a noticeable step-function in rates of criminal behavior, even between pairs of 'across-the-road' neighborhoods.


Let me guess:

A unified culture works, if it's protestant, English-speaking and involves singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" every morning?

And unenlightened barbarians speaking some unfathomable, outlandish gibberish need to be assimililated asap?


One example of FAIL of Karl's thesis ( and some of his other posts on social media and communications) is the actions happening in certain areas of London right now and over the last couple of nights. There were young men and a police presence on Ealing Broadway earlier!
I don't know were to go for a useful commentary right now, but listening to Dotun's program on BBC London yesterday was instructive. In the sheer inability of all the participants to share a common vocabulary let alone intent. Let's hope some ones -panicking- calmly and efficiently sorting it all out now.

*goes back to reading comments*


Actually, jboss, I wonder if he might be more likely referring to the European Union? I haven't spent all that much time here, but I've never gotten a particularly American-nationalist impression from dirk bruere.

I did also want to ask Mr. Schroeder, with regard to the thirty-five to fifty percent of human cultures which have never practiced war: Of those cultures, how many survive to the present day?


Why is it a thesis fail? Isn't it evidence that we need some sort of better mediation tools?


"Let me guess:
A unified culture works, if it's protestant, English-speaking and involves singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" every morning?"

No idea. The USA is not a unified culture like, say, Japan. So tell me how multiculturalism has worked so well in almost all of Africa, Sri Lanka, Yugoslavia, the USSR and even places like Belgium.


"I haven't spent all that much time here, but I've never gotten a particularly American-nationalist impression from dirk bruere."

Perhaps that's because I'm English and live in England.


Re: animals, sharing, and manners.

Do domesticated animals learn manners?

I've seen lots of advice on how to train dogs. Most of it consists of combinations of punishment and reward, tailored to the personality of the individual dog.

The better advice usually has the implicit reminder that the owner/master has to take the psychological role of 'head of pack' with the domesticated dog(s).

Is there any research into how wild canines handle food-sharing problems? Wolves are notoriously social. They also hunt and feed in groups, so the problem has to arise.

(Per the perception that wolf-packs are dominated by powerful, violent alphas, see this
It appears this mis-perception was founded on studies of confined, unrelated wolves. Somewhat like studying the social interactions of young humans in a prison compound, rather than in a situation in which they are surrounded by relatives and friends.)

...and now that I'm studying alpha-level canines on Wikipedia, I see a claim that alphas are usually the parent-pair of most members of the pack, and they get first dibs on food. Interesting.


maybe I should of said FAIL in. (rather than FAIL of ) sorry.

But one of the talking heads on Sunday was saying 'We are at war' and that the resulting action was an inevitable consequence of the establishments actions. Which seems rather sort sighted in the long run. One of the underlying causes of the this evenings activities is the very particular type of etiquette prevalent in certain sub-cultures; the demand for respect.

The last couple of days also demonstrate the reliance on the belief of civil society.
also why do looters attack their own communities.


"also why do looters attack their own communities."

Because they are generally stupid opportunist criminal scum?


@9, 91,94
Re: binary reality and Christianity

Well it is very strong in Christianity, by my read it is equally strong in Islam.

While right/wrong duality may not be strong in modern Judaism, it appears to have been strong at one time.

My intuition is that that all three big names in the Abrahamic family of religions have similar core assumptions. I also intuit that one of those assumptions is that most human actions sort into one of 'right' or 'wrong'...Even if a long discourse of study is necessary for many complicated cases.


Oh, I see.

The EU doesn't look very promising in the moment.

But what I infer from this is: Artificial rules, implemented by a central authority don't work very well.
Once a certain type of behaviour is universally accepted as "good manners", you can safely codify it in law. If you try that before, it can backfire.

On a global level, I don't think the universally accepted number of "good manners" will ever reach the density it can have locally, with shared language, heritage, interests, maybe even family bonds.

The aim then, I think, should be to reach for a high interconnectivity, multiple overlaps, but I do not believe in a uniform global set of best practices that goes beyond the pure essentials of civilization.


"Binary Reality"
Is a very useful tool.
Mathematicians and physicists and engineers use it all the time, but it can break down in the messier fileds of biology.
But, you have to appreciate that where you draw the line between "A" and "not-A" matters, and that, particularly in societal interactions that line can be MOVED.
Where it really breaks down is when you have a continuum of states, shading into each other, and putting a clear division between them is very difficult. The end-points are clear, but the centre?
The autonomous-human yes/no? conflict over fertilised human embryos is a classic of this type.
"Ring Species" are another problem: where does the European Lesser Black-Backed Gull stop, and the Siberian Lesser BBG start?

It's a pre-christian philosophiocal construct also - I think Aristotle was the first to formalise it (?)


"Once a certain type of behaviour is universally accepted as "good manners", you can safely codify it in law. If you try that before, it can backfire."

Again, the opposite tends to be true.
Laws are only enacted when too many people decide to behave against the norms of society. Laws are then required to legislate inter-cultural interaction because common ground in that society does not sufficiently exist.


it's depressing and fustrating. and pointless as its only more fuel for the Big Society auto de fe

maybe I should stop listening to the live coverage on BBC London (va the internet)

Who takes a toddler to a riot? How much has 'social media' change the course of events since thursday?


Anyone interested in whether (or not) punishments (or rewards) are effective should read the book Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn.

Kohn is mainly looking at whether punishments or rewards are useful for motivating people (workers or students) to do good work. The evidence is pretty clear that neither one is effective, and in fact, that both are actively harmful.

If your goal is to control people, punishments and rewards can be effective, but then you get into the same problems faced by centrally planned economies. (Controlling people is only useful if you know what you want them to do. And if you know that, you're probably better off just doing it yourself.)


Ah, now I really understand what you're talking about.

No, I don't believe in "multiculturalism".

If you just take an arbitrary sample of wildly differing patterns of behaviour and mix them in one place, it is not likely to work out well.

Manners or culture seem to grow locally, between people who interact repeatedly and friendly.

If that's always the same groups of people, global cooperation will be essentially inexistent. There's just the in-group and the out-group.

But you can't substitute trust with ideology either. It simply doesn't work.

That's why I was speaking of concentric circles: intimacy, respect, politeness.

There's absolutely no need to "respect" an angry youth from Tottenham. As long as he's a passive onlooker only, he deserves politeness. I.e. no racist slurs etc. The moment he breaks basic rules of civilized society even politeness ends and appropriate force becomes the order of the day.

Enforcement is absolutely necessary, but in a complex society it needs to be gradual.

Basics need to be enforced, but finer details rely on an underlying consensus.


Who takes a toddler to a riot?

(a) Someone who thought this was going to be a peaceful protest.

(b) Someone who doesn't see why having kids should stop them from having a bit of fun.

(c) Someone who thinks bad things only happen to someone else.

Which it is I don't know. One of my colleagues taught for a couple of years in London, and used to have parents barging drunk into the classroom in the middle of lessons. They were allowed to do it by the Headmaster (indeed, rewarded for it, as they got what they wanted to shut them up and get rid of them). I don't know if she was just in a bad school or if that is typical now in the UK.


Actually, I think the oldest binary concept probably shows up with the first Ba Gua and I Ching, which (is a binary code that dates from possibly ~2000 BCE(8 trigrams, aka the Ba Gua) or ~400 BCE (64 hexagrams).

The question, "Are species real?" is actually a great example of where binary logic fails. A decent answer is, "For living eukaryotic organisms, species boundaries based on reproductive isolation are thought to hold for something like 80% of all eukaryotic species, but we lack data on most of the species-rich groups. Reproductive isolation breaks down as a species concept for bacteria, and fossils use morphological definitions and suffer from inadequate data. Since most of the world's biomass is composed of bacteria, and much of the remaining biomass is composed of things like wheat and oaks (for which reproductive isolation is problematic), in terms of biomass, species boundaries are problematic."

It's not even a shades-of-gray issue. The assumptions underlying the question, "are species real?" cause the problem.

Another example is the "either right or wrong" question. The western/Christian framework tends to see this in an absolute good vs. evil frame, while a Taoist or Buddhist framework is relative. To a Taoist, there is not a problem with saying an action is good in one circumstance and bad in another. To a Christian, this can be confusing, and a problematic sign of the fallen nature of the world.

For example: is it good to eat a chicken? For the chicken, the answer is no. For a starving human, the answer is yes. Which frame of reference is the right one? They both are, but you have to choose which frame you are working in. That subtlety gets lost in western binary reality.


OK, someone has to state the obvious: Virtually all ethical systems have something like the following (from the great Jewish moralist Hillel): Do not unto others that which you would not have done unto you.

Yes, it is a long standing cliche. That does nothing to detract from its relevance.

Every culture has some form of this rule.

Mutual respect is the foundation of any worthwhile set of manners. Failure of mutual respect is the foundation of almost all of mankind's problems.


To rephrase the Sufi response to the Golden Rule:

"A robin and a human became excellent friends. They became such good friends that the robin decided to share his special favorite food with the human, for he was a good bird, and he knew that one should do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

So he shared his favorite food: poison oak berries.

The human, knowing how much his friend loved him, ate the berries. You can guess what happened next.

The small problem with the Golden Rule is this: people's needs differ. I absolutely agree that you should do good things unto others, that this is the fundamental basis for friendship and society itself. However, you really do need to find out what others need. Their needs may well differ from your own.


Ok, now that I have understood his point, I can reframe:

A single, unified culture works brilliantly as a local solution to local problems. Trying to enforce one such culture globally doesn't work.

And that means, that tackling global problems is not only gradually, but fundamentally different from keeping the local drunken lout in check.

Globally, because there's no true common culture, you need to grow a framework that's minimalist enough, open enough.

Locally, if your neighbours have a different idea of appropiate noise levels, norms have to be enforced. The interaction is not a free choice any more.

But yes, if you think this through, this amounts to nested hierarchies of cultural norms.


Well Freud said he was not a Freudian. It was something dreamed up more or less dreamed up by people who wanted on his bandwagon. Marx said he was a reporter writhing about what he saw. He said he was not a Marxist. In any case when you are first you are wrong a lot.
Japan has a high crime rate, but it's by people with strong ties with the ruling party. Our CIA gave it lots of money to wipe out unions and the left. Now the gangs are part of the government and do what the want. If they don't go too far and do what they are told.
Chaos theory kicks in when ever anyone tries to do too much at a time. Little errors get big fast.
American prospectors in Alaska had no law to back them up.
Law and manners start with not letting people shit next to the fire. The rest follows.


Long years ago I was lucky enough to have the marxist historian George Rudé (1910-1993) as a professor. He was the author of "The Crowd in History" and other interesting books. At one point in his teachings he reminded us that the media had completely missed the point of the fiery Watts riots of 1965. To him they represented a transition from violence against individuals to violence against property.

Sure, there had been 34 persons killed over those 6 days but in comparison to previous riots it was a small number and what was really impressive was that more than one thousand buildings had been damaged or totally destroyed, through fire or other means. This was a major social change for him.

When I look at the Tottenham riots I'm impressed with how incredibly polite both sides are. I see those massive fires, the widespread looting, the general destruction of property everywhere and then I read that there's only been one death in these three days of incredible unrest.

It's as if everyone was reading from the "Londoner's guide to looting and wanton burning in a refined manner".


British riots are rather safe, unless you find yourself trapped between the rioters and police


Well, having said that I hear from Fiona, who lives in S London, that's there's a racial element appearing with Whites being beaten up


when I said I saw a stand off between police youths at 5.30 in Ealing I hoped that there wouldn't be the level of violence there has been here. But until anyone does anything there is nothing the police can do. But saying it came out of the blue isn't correct; the possibility was quiet obvious (and entropy always increases).


I just emailed Miss Manners. She had someone in last week's WashPost (I'm a week behind!) tell about something that upset her, and gave her a somewhat decent answer. I know an answer that I and many of my friends have, so I emailed JM. I don't expect her to publish it, but it can't hurt to have that in case she has more questions of the type.


How do you know that's manners instead of practicalities?


I just watched live fires in London. Those happen in the US for a number of reasons.


Marxist theory and historians explain all. It's not true but it's science. You have a right to your own theories. But not your own facts. Our R/W is nuts. But not as nuts as Marxists.
How would you like to live in *Tottenham. Not be a TV tourist. Why? *WHERE EVER THAT IS

"also why do looters attack their own communities."

Because they are generally stupid opportunist criminal scum?

The same reason that bankers have been ripping off everybody else to the tune of trillions of dollars for the last few years. I get the impression that a lot of people just think, "It seems to work for them, so it should work for me."


AIUI there is experimental evidence from several mammalian species (dogs, monkeys, and chimps IIRC) that there's a common (perhaps genetically-transmitted, perhaps proto-social) concept of fairness and an expectation on the part of most individuals that it should apply to their own interactions with their conspecifics. That's a prime candidate for the underlying motivation for the development of manners.


"For example: is it good to eat a chicken? For the chicken, the answer is no. For a starving human, the answer is yes."

There is yet another level to consider — for chickens as a species, the answer may also be "yes."

Compare chickens and eagles.

Chickens are regularly eaten, worldwide, by humans. There are probably more living chickens at any time these days than any other bird. Unless there is a dramatic change in human consumption patterns (not impossible), or a worldwide catastrophe (also not impossible), chickens will not go extinct.

Eagles, on the other wing, are not regularly eaten by humans, anywhere, so far as I now — in the U.S., to do so is a crime. Eagles are a low-population group, flirting with the Endangered-Species list. If your goal is more eagles (and, please note, I say nothing about quality of life for either chickens or eagles), we should start opening Washington Fried Eagle franchises.

Also, I suspect that a science of etiquette would have the same relationship to psychohistory (Asimov, Flynn, Kingsbury, et al) as microeconomics does to macroeconomics, or the kinetic theory of matter does to fluid dynamics.


Marilee @127: I wallow in shame at mangling your name; I'm reading this discussion through the tiny lens of my cell phone. I did not plan ahead and got very interested in the discussion here, and I intend to re-read it via my desktop computer's larger screen Real Soon. I offer my sincere apology. And maybe I can figure out how to edit my post. Also thanks Charlie for a forum of high quality, and to Karl for keeping the fascinating ideas flowing.
(what's the emoticon smiley for embarassed face?)


I suppose this comment stream is winding down, but...

Is there any evidence that emoji usage is normative? Does the usage pattern of online emotion-faces converge over time, or do small communities form with internally-consistent online etiquette that diverge from other groups?

I suspect that the same scale-free clumping of online clans results in divergent rules of behaviour.

Hmm. I'm not really responding to other comments in this thread, sorry. I suspect my small screen changes my mode of interaction. But I am quite taken aback by the observation that riots have become more about property damage than hurting people.


I have no actual objection to people knowing me by my real name of Ken O'Neill. Charlie's blog s/w refuses to actually post comments, or even put them in the moderation queue, unless I post them with the Paws4thot usertag though.

This has been my intermittant reminder of this fact.


#95 - The only comment on the subject of "additional US states" I've made that was entirely serious was that Puerto Rico is about as near to being the 51st state as they can get without having seats in Congress.


What I found really fascinating last night was watching Al-Jazeera on the London riots, as compared with Sky News and the BBC.
Sky had the usual talking heads, half of whom regularly demanded the police bring in water cannons, despite being told repeatedly that they are illegal for use on mainland Britain, the nearest available ones are in Northern Ireland or France. Only one person really had a clue.

The BBC had one talking head who spent most of the time saying he had no idea what was really happening, he was drowning in information from twitter, eyewitness reports and overhead footage but it was very very hard to find the story amongst the clutter.
Most people phoning in were very much 'disgusted of tunbridge wells' types, more interested in saying how much they hated what was happening than in describing what was happening.

Al-Jazeera had several strategic reporters, all of whom were superb at relaying useful information about their areas. They brought in two different advisors who were deeply familiar with the subject of rioting and uprisings. The most interesting was the observation that it was *only* young people - 14-22yr olds. Unlike many other places, the older people were not involved, and the organised criminal elements were not visibly involved. Which suggested that they were selectively turning over the quieter parts of town while the police were otherwise occupied. The main mass of problems was randomised peer-group oriented destruction. One kid starts, the next follows, and then they're all into it. What was clear was that many of them had no idea what to do with their loot once they had nicked it, there were anecdotes of kids carrying large TVs a half mile or so down the road, then realising that a TV is *heavy* and that they weren't having fun any more, so they'd dump it in a garden, and go back for more mayhem.


It's interesting how much the reporting on English Al-Jazeera varies from the impression of it that Faux News et al would like you to have.

IME AJ mostly if not always do the basic journalism (as you describe), and don't get involved in irrelevant (and often politicised) editorialising masquerading as part of the same story.

In one case, involving the crash of an IranAir Airbus, AJ reported the crash. The BBC reported the same crash, and then went off into a rant about the safety record of Tupolev airliners.


Clue: school holidays


What's fascinating is how fiction deals with emergencies. Often the expectation is that things quickly dissolve into "Sauve qui peut".

My father is "in" emergency management consultant; one of the things he points out is that during emergencies, the evidence shows that the default setting for humans is selflessness and helpfulness. By way of example, look at the behaviour of those caught up in the 7/7 bombings in London.


Actually, I ran into a pocket of trouble on my way home from Notting Hill, and what was most interesting and related to the thread above was how the traditional London isolation broke down in the face of an external hazard.
We had people recommending different routes, we had random strangers stopping and talking in the streets, and I had a good chat with a bunch of pizza delivery guys as to where were good shortcuts around the area and what was kicking off where.

And then as I moved out of the affected area, people closed back down again.

It was quite fascinating.


heteromeles @ 117
You ASSUMED I was asking "Is it right or Wrong" ?
Whereas, I would be much more likely to ask, especially as this is a philosophical discussion, AND I'm scientifically-trained:
"Is it true, or not?"
And, quite possibly: "Is it partially true?"

Which is a very different algorithm from the one you are incorrectly assuming.


The tipping point varies widely from one country to another.

In the US it seems to have been in the mid 1960s, if we take the Watts riot in account.

In the UK it seems to have been late in the 18th and early in the 19th century, if we take the Swing riots as the biggest sign of change in riot etiquette:

The interesting thing (as seen from an Ocean away, and exclusively through the Web) about the current riots in the UK is that the rioters are made up of recent immigrants or sons of recent immigrants who seem to have absorbed the century old Brit behavior and customs for mayhem and chaos. It's as if they all read Captain Swing's Book of Etiquette.

Note that I wish that there had been no riots at all, even if I'm happy that these riots are less murderous than elsewhere or less murderous than in previous centuries. There's no such thing as a "good" riot, even the silly ones (with interesting cleanup etiquette behavior) like the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot.


Indeed farming endangered species, e.g. elephants for tusks, is now accepted as a way to best protect endangered species. What we are protecting, is another matter, as farmed chickens bear little resemblance to their wild ancestors.

Selfish genes would do very well is eagles were farmed and used as food.


"A or B?" is the basic binary question, Greg. It assumes that A and B are mutually exclusive categories, and also that they are the only relevant categories for the discussion.

"Is A or B partially correct?" is a shades of gray question. It makes the same assumptions as the binary question does.

Things break down when you violate either assumption. To wit: A and B may not be mutually exclusive, and A and B may not be the only relevant categories, or may not be relevant to answering the question at all.

The question "Are species real?" (do "species" fall into the category of "real" things) assumes that that all species are groups with equivalent boundaries, and that you have a reasonable definition of what "real" means. The problem is that there are a plethora of boundary definitions for species groups, and reality is hard to define. Certainly some species boundaries meet any reasonable criterion of reality: horseshoe crabs and humans work here. In others, this is not the case. Therefore, you can't answer the question "Are species real?" either yes or no, because the assumptions underlying the question are inadequate and incorrect.

The point about binary reality is to realize that such situations exist, and to get out of the cognitive traps that questions like "are species real?" pose.


Evolutionary biologist Martin Nowak's research, using mathematical modeling, concludes that the most effective strategy for human cooperation is to be generous, hopeful and forgiving. Manners seems to be a common way to regulate this using peer pressure, conflict resolution, skillful examples, etc. Nowak then talks about "indirect reciprocity" and how when you follow compassionate "strategies", you are essentially relying on the idea that: "I help you, and someone helps me." What goes around comes around - essentially, the mathematical origins of Karma.

The reason it all works in human populations, he claims, is because of the idea of reputation and the sharing of stories (he uses the word "gossip") that gives people a sense of what to expect. This then, in biological terms was tied to the evolution social intelligence and language and the capacity to name people to say who did what. Tweeting, blogging (+ moderation), story telling, story creating through acts of "good manners", and constant practice of "good manners" becomes a type of dispersed reputation. Much is anonymous in any population but a lot is also about highlighting individual behaviors and the ripples they cause.

To tie back to the ecological theme- one of the challenges we're facing around global climate change is that "we are being asked to cooperate with the members of future generations who have yet been born." Our capacity to strengthen those ties to the future seems really important in this case. The notion, perhaps, so common in indigenous cultures of manners as they relate to our ancestors and future generations seems central to this.

Video of Nowak's talk


Is there any research into how wild canines handle food-sharing problems?

My statistical base is wholely unscientifically distributed. I own two large female dogs from the same little. 10 years old. When in good trim they weigh in at 65 to 70 pounds. They have no problems eating out of the same bowl. Do it all the time. Yet EVERYONE I know with multiple dogs has to feed them separately as they will fight with intent to injure if fed close to one another or from the same bowl.

When I got my dogs they were 8 weeks old. I gave them food from a single dish. A few times one or the other would snarl or snap. When this happened I would immediately grab the pup and put it down on it's back with me looming over it and use several variations of NO plus not allow it near the food until the other pup was done. In only a few weeks there was absolutely no fighting over their food. Plus some similar training over other shared things such as water, bedding, etc...

My point is that it seems to me that dogs will instinctively fight over things such as food unless trained out of it. And to be honest I have no idea how to do such training with only rewards.


Who takes a toddler to a riot?

I'm sure some of them are from the same gene pool as the ones who take a trip by air with a non toilet trained infant/toddler and doesn't take along several changes of clothes, a dozen or so diapers, and enough food for up to 8 or more hours.

If you don't get what I'm talking about you've never raised kids.


I too have observed that behaviour, after a gunman in the subway was apprehended, suddenly everyone on the train was talking to each other like old friends.

>"we are being asked to cooperate with the members of future generations who have yet been born." Our capacity to strengthen those ties to the future seems really important in this case.

"Why we should put ourselves out of our way to do anything for posterity, for what has posterity ever done for us?" - 1st Baronet Boyle Roche


S'okay. No need to change the post.

When I first meet people in life, they never get my name right. Your version is the most common, but also Mary Lee, Nadine, Irene, etc. I think it's because they don't know the name and they take syllables and rhythm they recognize and make a name from that.


Me neither. walters.boyd called me "Marilyn," which is the most common misname I'm called.


On the NBC Nightly News a few hours ago, we were shown that in a small shopping center, all the stores but one had broken windows and missing content. The one left intact? Waterstone's.


Who's in charge of the pack and how is that dominance demonstrated and enforced? That's usually the key to dealing with multiple dogs in a household.

Friends who had a couple of dogs and occasionally boarded others from family who were out of town knew how to reinforce the dogs behaviour; the key was that they were fed twice a day at the same time and in the presence of the humans in the home, all of whom ate first. Table scraps were put into the dog's food bowls as part of the reinforcement.

This worked OK except for their teenage son who the home dogs would misbehave with. He was commonly coming home late from school after playing with his friends and eating after the dogs had been fed. The solution was for him to eat by himself with the door closed so the dogs couldn't see him. After that the behavoural problems dried up mostly -- the extended pack of family dogs tended to misbehave between themselves playing dominance games but they always kowtowed to the humans.


I'm not sure I see the relationship here. Paws4thot is a usertag originally from I Can Haz Cheezburger (If you remember Charlie's Huntegowk post this year, I was the one posting in Cheezspeek), and I'm stuck with using it related to this combination of e-mail and database backend. It's nothing to do with a mis-spelling of my name, but O'Neill is bad that way; there are 6 variants that I know of.


@149, @155

With that in mind, and with the data gleaned from Wiki, I assume that wolves in the wild are 'trained' by the parent-wolf into behaving in a particular way at meal time.

Of course, we are talking about observing wild predators, who are naturally wary of humans, during their feeding I don't know how accurate any of our data is.


If nothing else you can watch pups. Mother dogs do a fairly good job of putting pups in their place and teaching them how to get along even when they have lived alone since being weaned. But the result is typically a bit too far on the wild side for most pet situations unless people get involved.

Maybe I got lucky with the two dogs I have but I think that it was patience. In 10 years we've only had 2 "accidents" and both were just water. And even then the dog went down next to the basement door normally used to for their exit to the back yard. This was after leaving them alone for 8+ hours. And they know they are not supposed to be in the kitchen when we're eating which also makes them reluctant to eat if we walk through the kitchen. And they know the basic meaning of key words such as "out" means leave the area, "kennel" means go up to the bedrooms until called, etc... And as far as we know they've never jumped up or bitten anyone in 10 years. But they do bark at strangers and are lab black so they will scare off most anyone who doesn't know them.

And all of this with very little reward or punishment. Just a lot of repetition and consistency for the first 6 months. A lot. Which is why most dogs as pets are not well behaved. Most people will not spend the time. And to be honest there's a parallel to people with kids who don't know how to deal with non kids.


Oh, I see. I thought you thought the name I use here wasn't accurate.


Too many people who hide under the Left's big tent think the BATTLE FOR ALGERS(?) is both a documentary and a guide. Not the same kind of fiction as JFK.
By now you would think that people would there is such a thing as recreation rioting. Fighting makes you feel good. While too many were seeing the riots in America as some kind of a political movement, it seemed clear to me from the happy way they acted on TV they were having fun. From what little I heard here about the Brit riots that's what's happening there. No deep meaning for would be Marxists to harp about.

Here in the States I have often observed that peoples kids and there dog are alike. That is to say that people raise both the same way. The dogs and the kids are messed up in the same ways. I can't remember what its called but there is a well know way of using rewards with-out punishment to train a animal to do what you want it to. Informal, un-ethical use of it has shown that it works with kids.
The Canine world is a constant war for dominance. Everything they do is testing to see if one can move up in rank. The may have fun playing, but's it always a test. When dogs run and bump the one who is bumped over is the loser and loses rank. There must be a top Dog or Wolfe. Humans must be number one or the dog pack is dangerous.
That's why there are so many high powered dog attacks in the States. With Bad owners they form Packs without humans at the top. And protect the pack from the outside humans who do not follow the Canine rules.
Many good breed's known to protect kids like their own pups hurt the kids. When a pups acts badly the mother dog bites gently on it's pups head and the pup stops. Kids act like monkeys and try not be eaten. The dog bites down harder to make it's pup mind and the kid fights more and the dog bites harder... It's Canine rules. They are what they are, not people.


Chasing back to your original post in this strand at #127, my point was that if I don't call myself Paws4thot here, I can't post at all. OTOH I have no objection to people knowing me by my real name.


I usually post as Nestor, I just changed it to Bob to test, I don't anticipate having a problem posting...


Is there something special about Waterstone's? The article does not say.


Bookshop, rather than electronics. Weight to resale value all wrong. ",)


At least equally to the point, there was a risk that the thieving little [censored] might learn something! ;-)


I am a little surprised that the shop full of flammable paper didn't get set on fire, but clearly most were more interested in looting than arson.

On children and dogs, I have maintained for years that at least for the first couple of years of life they need similar (not identical obviously) treatment regarding discipline and your behaviour towards them etc.


Yep. But saying that in some circles can get you arrested or at least investigated.

The terrible "2's" are named for a reason. That's the year you transition a child from having most every need and want met by others to starting the journey of learning they must do things for themselves. And they can't do everything they want. And if you skip the entire concept of punishment of any degree, you typically create a life long brat.


"skip the entire concept of punishment of any degree" Sure, sure. How Public School. Stopping a dog or a kid from doing something and rewarding them for doing the right thing is not punishment. And it's long shown to work better. Punishment makes mean kids who learn how to get away with things, and bad dogs. People who know what they are doing treat dogs better than most kids are treated. After all, a good dog is worth money.


It's a long time ago, early Eighties, but there we were on a farm, and the neighbour's one-eyes ginger tomcat had a terrible reputation.

I don't know why. We got on OK with him. Even the dog got on OK with him.

Maybe it was the experience of large animals, cattle mostly. When you haven't started school yet, they're huge. And I suppose you pick up the habit of paying attention to their behaviour.

It's rather satisfying to let the cat out of the Workshop, pick up the brute, and deliver him safely home. And leave the people who fed him wondering how the heck you managed to do that without getting scratched.


I should have clicked my name on your answer -- I thought yours was closer, from walters.boyd's post.

I think that for some people who use the same not-name everywhere, like "Sunny," they should get to use that, but otherwise, requiring people to use their real names makes them think more.


IF NOT HERE THEN WHERE As the New York Times reports:

“From the 12th to the 15th we were in a location with one of the highest levels of radiation,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie, which is about five miles from the nuclear plant. He and thousands from Namie now live in temporary housing in another town, Nihonmatsu. “We are extremely worried about internal exposure to radiation.”

The withholding of information, he said, was akin to “murder.”

In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry. As the nuclear plant continues to release radiation, some of which has slipped into the nation’s food supply, public anger is growing at what many here see as an official campaign to play down the scope of the accident and the potential health risks.

Seiki Soramoto, a lawmaker and former nuclear engineer to whom Prime Minister Naoto Kan turned for advice during the crisis, blamed the government for withholding forecasts from the computer system, known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi.

“In the end, it was the prime minister’s office that hid the Speedi data,” he said. “Because they didn’t have the knowledge to know what the data meant, and thus they did not know what to say to the public, they thought only of their own safety, and decided it was easier just not to announce it.”


Meltdowns at three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went officially unacknowledged for months. In one of the most damning admissions, nuclear regulators said in early June that inspectors had found tellurium 132, which experts call telltale evidence of reactor meltdowns, a day after the tsunami — but did not tell the public for nearly three months. For months after the disaster, the government flip-flopped on the level of radiation permissible on school grounds, causing continuing confusion and anguish about the safety of schoolchildren here in Fukushima.



I think we're pretty much in agreement then; the real point is that you should try and build a known on-line persona under your real name, or any specific pseudoneum you use, rather than switch between a bunch of sock puppets for the purposes of being offensive and trolling.


These days, any big city has people from every corner of the world living in it; in my city of Toronto, more than 50% of the inhabitants are from somewhere else. (And it works magnificently; we have 1/10th the murder rate of any comparably-sized American city.)

This claim about murder rates is wrong. The murder rate in Toronto is about 3.3/100,000, which is about 1/10th of Detroits (33.8), but is actually higher than San Jose (2.9), and it's about half of New York CIty's (6.3) and about a third of Boston's (10.3).

While Toronto enjoys a low murder rate, it does seem deceptive, and perhaps even unfair to American cities to describe it as 1/10th of a comparable American city's rate.



Panopticon/Biopolitics/Under the pavement, the beach!


And, isn't South Florida the fourth territory of Canada? Growing up there, sure seemed like it every winter.


This question "Is there a core 'metalanguage' of manners?" really spoke to me.

I care intently about manners, but it is an embarrassing thing to geek out on. People keep thinking I am judging their own manners rather than trying to figure out how to behave myself.

I have, until now, focused on how to apply and shape rules and I have not given proper consideration to where and how standards of civility come from.

And now I see cognitive science in my future. Can anyone recommend additional starting points besides Nowak?


The principles of behavioral modification are relatively straightforward, though application is certainly challenging for a species as complex as we are.

Behaviorists (honest ones, at any rate) will admit these principles don't even work that well on the animals we studied to learn them, rats and pigeons.

Two year olds are a great challenge. How do you teach two year olds manners? I think part of manners comes from higher level processing than most two year olds are capable of, so we typically focus more on self-care training. A phrase that was in vogue when I was doing parenting education was natural consequences. Obviously, some natural consequences are too dangerous. Running into the street, for instance.


If anyone is interesting in really digging into this topic from a linguistic anthro perspective, Language and Social Relations by Asif Agha is a good place to start.


this is probably going to get lost in the hubbub, but you should check out Promise theory.


Good manners are a way of getting what you want without appearing to be an absolute swine.
(Quentin Crisp)


I've lived in both. One might only hope.


Perhaps we should focus on avoiding the bad before we even start thinking about promoting the good. In this regard, only a single principle of etiquette would be necessary (and one that hopefully, due to its passivity, should not be too controversial):

Unless you have reasons to the contrary, act in such a way that the world is left in a state as close as possible to the one it would have been in were you not there.


That's a fine argument for immediate suicide. (And even that wouldn't entirely eliminate my carbon footprint...)



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This page contains a single entry by Karl Schroeder published on August 6, 2011 11:45 AM.

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